Friday, December 6, 2013
By Amy Fowler, president of the Maine County Commissioners Association
County and regional jails have faced major challenges over the past four years to operate as a coordinated county correctional system ("Our View: Jail system saves money, should be preserved," July 29).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amy Fowler is the president of the Maine County Commissioners Association.
One of the most significant challenges has been to ensure that the Maine Legislature adequately funds our county and regional jails. Without the proper funding, jails' safety and security is constantly threatened.
Another challenge is that the marginal rate of approximately $22 a day paid for county and state inmates in our county jails does not recognize the debt payments for the construction and maintenance of these facilities.
Local property taxpayers are still responsible for the debt payment on county jails, especially the newly built Somerset County Jail and Two Bridges Regional Jail and any other jails with current bonded debt.
The state also has fallen short on funding the inverse debt payments to support necessary capital improvements and repairs of existing facilities.
This was written into the law to ensure the safety and security of our county facilities. This funding has largely been ignored by the Legislature, forcing counties to use daily operating funds to make safety-related repairs.
The Board of Corrections is doing its very best to seek the necessary funding required to maintain its infrastructure and fund programs aimed to end recidivism.
Unfortunately, the board spends the majority of its time micromanaging the day-to-day operational budgets of these facilities.
We are county government. We are thrifty, frugal and efficient. We are reachable and accountable to our neighbors and peers. Our budgets are already bare bones.
We make do, sacrifice and accept a challenge with fair, honest work and compromise. However, it is our greatest fear that without the proper funding, commitment and investment by our Legislature to this system, we can not continue to sustain.